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looking down upon the wealthy concourse of people with which that place is every day filled. In this case, how would he be surprised to hear all the languages of Europe spoken in this little spot of his former dominions, and to see so many private men, who in his time would have been the vassals of some powerful baron, negotiating like princes for greater sums of money than were formerly to be met with in the royal treasury! Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of additional empire. It has multiplied the number of the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an accefsion of other estates as valuable as the lands themselves.
* By Addison, dated it seems from Chelfia. See Nute to N° 7 ad fineni, and N° 121, final Note.
This Day (May 15] is published, “ An Eliay on Cria ticism." Printed for W. Lewis in Rufiel Street, Covent Garden, and sold by W. Taylor, at the Ship in Paternoster Rów; T. Osborn in Gray's Inn, near the Walks ; J. Graves in St. James's Street; and J. Morphew, near Stationer's Hall. Price is. Spect. in folio, No65.
* * Compleat fets of this paper for the month of April, are to be sold by Mr. Graves, St. James's Street ; Mr. Lewis, at Tom's Coffee-House ; Mr. Lillie, at the corner of Beaufort Buildings; Mr. Sanger, at the Ternple Gate ; Mr. Lloyd, near the Church in the Temple; Mr. Knapton, in St. Paul's Church Yard; Mr. Round, in Exchange Alley; and Mr. Baldwin, in Warwick Lane ; where also may be had those for the month of March. Ibidem.
N° 70. Monday, May 21, 1711.
Interdum vulgus restum videt.
Hor. 1 Ep. ii. 63. Sometimes the vulgar fee and judge aright.
HEN I travelled, I took a particular
delight in hearing the songs and fables that are come from father to son, and are most in vogue among the common people of the countries through which I passed; for it is impossible that any thing should be universally tasted and approved by a multitude, though they are only the rabble of a nation, which hath not in it some peculiar aptness to please and gratify the mind of man. Human nature is the same in all reasonable creatures; and whatever falls in with it, will meet with admirers amongst readers of all qualities and conditions. Moliere, as we are told by Monsieur Boileau, used to read all his comedies to an old woman who was his housekeeper, as the sat with him at her work by the chimney-corner; and could foretel the fuccess of his play in the theatre, from the reception it met at his fire-side: for he tells us the audience always followed the old woman, and never failed to laugh in the same place.
I know nothing which more shews the effential and inherent perfection of fimplicity of
thought*, above that which I call the Gothic manner in writing, than this, that the first pleases all kinds of palates, and the latter only such as have formed to themselves a wrong artificial taste upon little fanciful authors and writers of epigram. Homer, Virgil, or Milton, so far as the language of their poems is understood, will please a reader of plain common sense, who would neither relish nor comprehend an epigram of Martial, or a poem of Cowley: so, on the contrary, an ordinary song or ballad that is the delight of the common people, cannot fail to please all such readers as are not unqualified for the entertainment by their affectation or ignorance; and the reason is plain, because the same paintings of nature, which recommend it to the most ordinary reader, will appear
beauti, ful to the most refined.
The old song of Chevy-Chase is the favourite ballad of the common people of England, and Ben Jonson used to say he had rather have been the author of it than of all his works. Sir Philip Sidney, in his discourse of poetry, speaks of it in the following words : “ I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas, that I found not my
heart more moved than with a trumpet; “ and yet it is sung by some blind crowder with “ no rougher voice than rude stile; which be
ing so evil apparelled in the dust and cobweb “ of that uncivil age, what would it work trim
* See Dennis's “ Original Let. fam. mor. & crit. 8vo.
1721, p. 166, & feq." Letter to Henry Cromwell, Esq. on “ Simplicity in Poetical Composition.
w med then
“ med in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindar ?" For my own part, I am so professed an admirer of this antiquated song, that I shall give my reader a critique upon it, without any further apology for fo doing.
The greatest modern critics have laid it down as a rule, That an heroic poem 1hould be founded upon some important precept of morality, adapted to the constitution of the country in which the poct writes. Homer and Virgil have formed their plans in this view. As Greece was a collection of many governments, who suffered very much among themselves, and gave the Persian emperor, who was their common enemy, many advantages over them by their mutual jealousies and animofities, Homer *, in order to establish among them an union, which was so neceflary for their safety, grounds his poem upon the discords of the several Grecian princes who were engaged in a confederacy against an Afiatic prince, and the several advantages which the enemy gained by such their discords. At the time the poem we are now treating of was written, the dissensions of the Barons t, who were
* This anachronisin with respect to Homer cannot escape notice. See Spect. vol. V. N° 327. Homer flourished 850 years before the Chriftian æra, and according to others 980, which calculation places him near the age of Solomon, agreeably to what is said No 327.
+ There is here a fimilar chronological inaccuracy with respect to Chevy-Chase. The diffenfions of the barons were long over before the event which is commonly supposed to have given occafion to this ballad. The battle of Otterburn, usually called Chevy-Chase, was fought A. D. 1388, in the
then so many petty princes, ran very high, whether they quarrelled among themselves, or with their neighbours, and produced unspeakable calamities to the country. The poet, to deter men from such unnatural contentions, describes a bloody battle and dreadful scene of death, occafioned by the mutual feuds which reigned in the families of an English and Scotch nobleman. That he designed this for the instruction of his poem, we may learn from his four last lines, in which, after the example of the modern tragedians, he draws from it a precept for the benefit of his readers.
God save the King, and bless the land
In plenty, joy, and peace;
'Twixt noblemen may cease.
The next point observed by the greatest heroic poets, hath been to celebrate persons and actions which do honour to their country: thus Virgil's hero was the founder of Rome, Homer's a prince of Greece; and for this reason Valerius Flaccus
reigns of Richard II. of England, and Robert II. of Scotland. Others with less probability have brought down the action to the reigns of Henry IV. of England, and James I. of Scotland. This critique on Chevy Chase subjected the author to the ridicule of Dr. William Wagstaff, and gave birth to the mock critique of “ Tom Thumb,” in that author's works, 8vo. 1726, where there is little if any thing, worth reading. It was likewise honoured with the notice and animadversions of John Dennis. See Dennis's “ Original Letters,” ut supra, and Dr. Johnson's “ Lives of English Poets,” vol. II. page 441, 8vo. 1981.